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(68 min, 'Chronic Pink')
TRACK LIST: 1. Awake With a Shock 2:05 2. What Is Life? 6:06 3. Monday 7:05 4. Blow Things Up 5:45 5. Logging On 9:00 6. Downcast 4:55 7. Thursday Morning Jogger 8:12 8. Helix 4:03 9. Twilight 6:43 10. The Endless Looping Game 6:50 11. Randy & the Gogzies 7:38 All tracks: by Specimen 37. Produced by Specimen 37. LINEUP: Empathy - vocals; guitars; synthesizers Gee-Roj - vocals; synthesizers; sampling Mojonine - acoustic & electronic drums Sketch Element - bass With: Ponder - vocals Yrgol - bass (2) Muse - piano (3) Kookina - vocals (3)
Prolusion. "The Endless Looping Game" is the second CD by Boston's quartet SPECIMEN 37, following "Adverse Reaction" from 2000. These guys have been playing together since their high school years; Pink Floyd is mentioned as their only and all-embracing influence; however, there is no information on their website or in the CD press kit either on the date of the band's formation.
Analysis. This is a full-fledged concept album depicting seven days in the life of the nameless "specimen", one man locked in an existential struggle to find meaning in the mundane acts of everyday life. The eternal question, it will ever be topical (at least on this earthly plane) despite the fact that the matter seems to be standard, as many artists appeal to it in their works. As is historically quite typical for a classic Space Rock album, the pauses between tracks are filled with generated electronic effects, natural sounds, etc. Indeed, Pink Floyd much influenced on our heroes' creation, but it's not the only band that Specimen 37 drew their inspiration from. Each of the last five tracks points Porcupine Tree out as their other major benefactor, though of course, those English guys themselves are followers of Pink Floyd; at least they were initially. In any event, "The Endless Looping Game" a bit more often calls up "The Sky Moves Sideway", "Signify" and "Stupid Dream" by England's contemporary Space Rock stalwarts than classic Pink Floyd. While listening to the album the names of Hawkwind and Tangerine Dream may also come to mind, on the associative level. Enough for comparisons; it's time to highlight the key points of the material. The second Specimen 37 effort finds its creators approximately at the same stage of maturity as Porcupine Tree were in the second half of the nineties, which means that the band's original thinking has not only taken shape already, but also has become the main driving force in their creative investigations. There are no direct borrowings on the album, and the music is usually complicated, possessing a pretty strong mesmerizing power. Besides, the band often shines with exceptionally innovative approach, when going heavy specifically, and a whole new direction is paved on some of the tracks here. The songs: Blow Things Up, Logging On and Downcast are largely instrumental, but what's most significant, they're absolutely unique, just incomparable, and are wonderfully intricate and intriguing. Following one another right in the middle of the album, these are its true centerpieces indeed. The band managed to combine symphonic and psychedelic Space Rock manifestations with avant-garde Cathedral Metal. No, this is neither a slip of the pen nor a misprint. Just lend a keen ear to the angular structures that are throughout the former, which is the heaviest, and you'll have to admit that these brave experiments are hardly much inferior to those King Crimson did on their revolutionary "Starless" and "Red". The other outstanding compositions: What Is Life, Helix and the title track are in places notable for the like maneuvers, though the heavy component reveals itself this time out a bit less frequently and in different forms, Thrash included. Helix is the one featuring female vocals, and the girl who provided them is most likely of Russian origin, judging by her untranslatable family, Kookina. Sadly, the band sometimes sets their achievements aside in favor of a more traditional sound. Awake With a Shock, Thursday Morning Jogger, Randy & the Gogzies and Twilight, the latter being the only instrumental, are all about a temperate modern Space Rock with elements of electronic music. I would foster the band to invest more in dynamics and tension in each of them. But while not masterworks as most of the others, these are still good songs with delicate and tasty arrangements.
Conclusion. Many of those working in the field of this genre today should envy Specimen 37 for their ability to make music complicated and bright at once. This is a fine progressive band that will certainly continue to advance. Fans of all of the aforementioned bands, except Tangerine Dream, and those into Space Metal definitely shouldn't let this CD pass them by.
VM: April 8, 2005
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